Original Work My Best Friend, a novel of modern times

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by DKR, Dec 16, 2016.


  1. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Prologue

    Roscoe had most certainly seen some bad days in the past. Far more than a few. In fact, maybe too many. Hell, in pulling two tours in Guatemala, humping ruck in the highlands while dodging ambushes from both sides of the conflict, the term 'bad day' held an entirely new meaning.

    Finally, having to babysit The Trench until their leg fully healed would be enough to drive anyone around the bend. In his case, around the bend was out of the Army and into the rough and tumble world of civilian life. There is life after the Army, it just sucks in a different way.

    Roscoe first tried driving a truck. After shooting his way out of a second hijacking attempt, he decided splattering cretins under the wheels of a big rig wasn't a good career choice. He wasn't stupid enough to even consider driving a taxi. Working ranches like a modern day swagman helped for a while. But while the work was honest, it was boring. As a whole, way too boring.

    He worked two years as a yard bull. That seemed like he might have found a decent job. After a shootout with cargo thieves, he and the railroad parted company. Their loss, of course, This left Roscoe wandering the Ag circuit again, swag packed on the back of his scoot, wishing for something better.

    On a whim, he applied at a mountain-based brewery. To his surprise he got hired. Happy to work the nasty, almost graveyard shift, he soon settled into something of a life. It didn't take much to clean up the empty storage closet at the very back of a dead end part of the plant and move in. Compared to the hooches the Army had called 'livable', the closet was a luxury pad.

    He moved his scoot every day, following the shift workers in and out of the plant. The door to his place locked from the inside. The DANGER sign on the outside ensured some privacy. A little later, changing the lock only took a few minutes and was a low risk move.

    Once a week he'd hit town to do laundry. After picking up a bit of food, heading back to the plant completed the day. Home sweet home. The company cafeteria got him two hots a day and rigging a shower in an out of the way utilidor was no work at all. He'd get up in the afternoon, stow his swag in a roll around tool box and hit his shower. Waltzing in and out with the shift change crowd was a bit of camouflage indulged in for no other reason than the exercise. His co-workers were incurious, at best.

    With no rent or other real day to day expenses life seemed, if not good, at least livable. Livable, until that day, the worst day of his life. The day he won the lottery. Stepping on a box mine in The Gut had been pretty bad, but winning the Ulta-powerball topped even that.

    It was a stupid move really. He'd had some change from his weekly food run and stupidly spent it on a Powerball ticket. That’s when the trouble started. Six hundred and fifty four million credits worth of trouble. After taxes. It took him a full week of internal arguing before deciding to call in and claim the pot. He still had some planning to do, but in the end, went through with claiming his 'win'.

    Once his name was released, as expected, all Hell broke loose. People he knew, had known or never met showed up in town looking for a piece of the pie. His pie. Women held up babies, claiming Roscoe as the daddy. Fictitious debts, bills, bogus loan payment demands and all manner of lawsuits were filed, all this before he could accept a dime of winnings. He was adult enough to fully understood that much money was like owning a crap magnet, but he had a plan... Roscoe always had a plan. Some of those plans even worked.

    The payment ceremony went pretty much as planned. He accepted the golden credit chit, usable anywhere a cash machine or bank existed, smiling for the holoscanners. With brown contacts, hair bleached white and his cheeks stuffed with cotton, he knew his own mother wouldn't recognize him. He was careful to wear a work coverall from the brewery. This small gesture was the least he could do for the outfit after living rent free these many months. When the bright lights came up for the news ghouls, he donned sunglasses.

    The first shot rang out as the reporters were shouting questions at him. Plaster splattered behind him as more shots shattered the air. While everyone screamed and ran around in blind panic, he calmly walked off the stage, out the back door and into a nearby alley. The magic card went into a skin pocket, one that had carried his ID and blood chit for so long. It was nice to have some Army buddies that could actually shoot straight…while being as nuts as a Vet could be and still allowed to walk the streets.

    Spitting out the cotton, it took just a few seconds to shed the overalls, slap on a cap and appear at the far end of the alleyway, looking nothing like the man that had entered. At the bus stop, the wait was only a minute before he took the cross town express out of the Area of Operations. The AO was now too hot to stick around. The flatfoots would show up and then the games would really begin. He left the bus with the rest of the crowd, heading for the first open business complex.

    The restroom inside allowed him to remove his contacts and shave his head. Looking into the mirror, he was reminded of his first day as a Boot. That brought another smile. This was another new beginning after all, but a far different one from any of the others in his past.

    It took the rest of the rest of the day to make his way back to the brewery to retrieve his scoot and swag. As the sun set, he watched the lights of the city fade into the distance in his rear view mirror. Life would be different now, much different. How much different he had no idea…
     
  2. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Fluffy.
    No, Fluffy picked me up.

    I was cruising across Georgia... No, again. The one in the south of the Union. Anyway, I'd been on the road for a week. The hay harvest run out to Wyoming had been a bust. Too little rain, too many workers. The gig I did land, well, it lasted just a week and I got that much work only because the foreman remembered me from a couple of season's ago.

    I scored some major fuel on top of the food and a few credits. Maybe next year. I know some good folks that live out there. Anyway, I was looking for a place to flop and get some Z's, I'd been in the saddle for two days. And then...there was this construction site. Not some make work, Government-Corporate welfare scam, a real construction site. Three floors. I got through the fence no problem. I had to take my swag off of Rosie even then, she barely made in. That's what I love about my scoot. She's adaptable. At the back of the site, I found a sweet spot - stacks of concrete forms. That part of the work was over, so we wiggled in and set up camp.

    I sleep in a hammock these days, a holdover from my time in The Gut, no doubt. Rolled up, the hammock is smaller than my fist. Even that small, it is big enough to hold up two people and a short ton. Hellofa playground, if you know what I mean. The only thing bad about construction sites are the rats. I effing hate rats. The nasty bastards in The Gut had been big enough to attack and kill a sleeping man. Lost two of my squaddies to the little horrors on my last tour. I know for a fact that stepping on that damn mine saved my life.

    As I was setting up my hammock, this little dog walks up and gives me the once over. Mean looking bastard. Anyway, once I get the lookover, the little guys goes back to wherever he was living. Not a sound. I figured, what the Hell. His turf and the little guy is nice enough to share. You don't see that much these days, any sharing. Times are hard all over. Figured I'd leave the mutt some food in the morning when I jetted off. The little guy looked hungry.
    *****
    A Machine! I hear Machine. Should I leave my hide to see if it is Ross? I will see who it is. I look through the edge of my hide and see a notMachine. It smells like a Machine, it sounds like a Machine. I see a notMachine. I saw many notMachines in Missionplace. Ross said there would be many Machines in Rossplace. Be careful Ross said. The Others not EnemyOther, but they could hurt me. Ross said there would be big Machiness in Rossplace, I have seen them. Any one could kill me if the Machine could see me. I must hidehidehide all the time. Ross is gone. I looked all over Rossplace, no Ross.

    This Other smells different. He has stuff that smells of Missionplace. Why does he smell of Missionplace? I look again. This Other is marked. I walk out of my hide to really see this Other. The Other smiles. I see what Ross said is smile, good. Not smile, bad. The Other is making a sleep place, I will go hidehidehide. I will watch for the smalls. I know they will try to eat the Other.

    I kill smalls. I live to kill smalls. In tunnels, in holes, in Rosshouse. I kill every small.
    *****
    Got the hammock rigged easy enough. The forms were mostly pipe and just enough flat forms to provide decent cover and concealment. Once the hammock was strung up, I tied off my portyanki to the support straps. I don't wear socks, haven't for years. The portyanki work fine and the odor is nasty enough to keep any wildlife away. Or at least, it had been.

    After crashing, I got in some serious Z's. No problems with rain or local bulls, so a real win. I'd hung my boots upside-down at the head of my rack. Close to hand, you know? Anyway, after I got up, took a good piss and got my boots on is when I saw the rats. Two of the damn things. Big ones. And dead as could be. Curled up next to the rats was Fluffy. He'd killed rats almost as big as he was and without any noise. I don't just sleep lightly, I barely sleep at all. This double kill had been silent.

    Now, why this mutt would kill the rats, and then leave the remains where I couldn't miss the damn things? That had me puzzled. I was kinda scratching my head, so to speak, as I pulled down my hammock. Wrapping it up, I gave the mutt a real solid look. Some kind of a Terrier mix was my best guess. If the dog weighed 60 pounds, I'd be surprised. I did say times were hard all over, yes?

    Then it hit me. His head was all wrong. Fluffy had to be a damn NEOdog. I'd seen firsthand the results of the Union's meddling with genetics. I got tapped to provide guide services to an Air Commando section, each one the SOBs a Hunter/Killer team. The humans were scary enough by their own bad selves. But their dogs were a horror.

    They might have been Nufies or some other kind of mastiff once upon a time. All had a big head, full of teeth. Short coats for the heat, dead flat black. They didn't move like dogs. They looked like damned panthers eeling through the brush. The squad leader had each of the dogs give me a sniff by way of introduction. Even with him there, I'd damn near dropped a load in my skivvies. NEOdogs all have funny looking heads. For their bigger brains.

    Ya. Neuron Enhanced, field Operations combat dog. Newsies called 'em smart bombs with four legs. They normally failed to mention the big effing teeth. Which didn't explain Fluffy. NEOdogs weren't allowed back into the Union. And for damn good reason. I'd seen a NEOdog kill a steer one day. Must have been hungry. Muckled into its throat, shook once and Snap! -broke the steer's neck.
    *****
    I put smalls out for the Other to see. No Good Dog. No food. No treat. No touch. Nothing. I finally understand. This Other cannot Speak. He tries to give me notFood. I roll my eyes. Maybe the Other can understand that much. This Other seems…damaged.
    *****
    Anyway, after I loaded up Rosie, getting ready to jet, Fluffy walks up, only to sit. Just sat there watching me. I offered him some of my Chow but all that got me was an eye roll. Smart little bugger, my Fluffy. Chow was food only because some bureaucrat insisted it was 'food' fit for humans. Grunts knew better. Just the same, I carried some in case I hit really hard times. Chow never spoiled, or at least you couldn't tell by the smell.

    I ponied up the last of my good German bologna. The mutt scarfed it down fast enough. Must have been at least as hungry as I was. "Okay," I said, "thanks for killing the rats. That was the last of my meat. Are we square now?"

    The damn dog shook his head No.

    "Fine. What do you want? More food?" That netted me another negative headshake.

    ******
    This Other cannot Speak. I try Ross moves. The Other give me Food! Good Food. The Food is gone too fast. The Other asks something. Are we…what? Something. I show NO. He asks if I want more Food. I show NO. I want Ross. I Speak – Help me find Ross. Nothing. The Other must be from Missonplace, why can't he Speak?
    ******
    Took me a minute to say, "You want a ride out of this shithole town? I can dig that. No way I would stay here myself. Here's the bad news. I get caught transporting a NEOdog and the best I can hope for is a long stretch in the hurtlocker. In case you missed the memo, NEOdogs are a shoot on sight target for everyone. The cops, pigs, commercial bulls and even the APEs. There's an open cash reward for dead NEOdogs. Which is funny, if you think about it. It puts the Union muckity-mucks in the position of having to admit NEOdogs are loose inside the Union. Real funny, huh?" The mutt declined to reply. Couldn't blame the little guy.

    I don't mind talking to Fluffy. As a NEOdog, he's at least as smart as some of the Grunts I served with in The Gut. So, there we were. Sitting in the dirt at an active construction site and I could hear the day shift workers showing up. That part was good. Being caught with a live, working NEOdog, not so much.

    "So, what are we going to do? Are you willing to get stuffed into Rosie's tank bag? I'll cut you loose once we get far enough out of this hole. That work for you?" Fluffy jumped up on Rosie and started messing with the tank bag zipper. I got the bag open, dogs don't have thumbs after all. Which is a shame. With thumbs, they could open their own damn beer bottles.

    Anyway, I wound up making this little bike helmet for Fluffy. Hides his head real good. I bought some bogus tags in Memphis, so he's good to go. After we had a chance to chat at length, turns out he worked with the 9th Special Forces Group, Intel section. Tunnel dog. We still have a lot to talk about. Fluffy did a tour in the highlands the same time I did.

    As we rode off, I thought I've got to ask Jonsie some day. Just how the Hell did he get his NEOdog in-country? Because that is one bad-ass dog....

    Looking for your comments. More to follow.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
  3. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Beer run.

    These goons were worse than stupid. They were clueless stupid. And now I would have to kill them both. I hate having to explain to the pigs when I leave trash behind, but what the Hell... Times are hard all over.

    It started out innocuous enough. I'd hit an ATM machine, one of the unconnected ones, for a few ducats to buy some beer. Real bottled beer. Not the crap they sell at the market. Someone would eventually be by to download the transactions and put more credits inside. No network connection meant no one could hack your machine and steal the all but worthless cash inside.

    So, someone would find out the mystery ultra-mega-lottery winner had used the machine. But by then, I wouldn't even be a faint memory for the store manager. The ATM charged a hell of a steep fee, but then anything that dealt in cash these days would stick it to you. Bottled beer isn't cheap and that's all I will drink.

    That cash was still even allowed was more proof, to a lot of us anyway, that the eff'n politicians owned or at a minimum, controlled the drug trade. What the Hell they did with all that cash, I dunno. Maybe they owned the ATM network as well. As I walked away after stuffing the ducats in my wallet, the goons popped up. It doesn't take a rocket mechanic to know what they wanted. It was also plain they didn't understand that I never play by the rules. Playing by the rules is what could get you killed.

    The bigger of the two goons, I'll call him Tiny on account of history and all... Tiny was nearly coherent. Totaled on some kind of drugs, he actually got out a fairly articulate statement. "Gimme money." Stunning in its simple brilliance. Saying so much, and in so few words. I was nearly struck speechless. The mumble was also testament that Tiny had been using this drug for some time, as he wasn't just sitting and drooling on the cracked sidewalk.

    His partner was short, fat and ugly. He even smelled worse than I did and I tried for ripe. Worked really hard at it, as a matter of fact. People tended to leave me alone in what I have come to assume to be my honest reward in this effort. . How in the Hell Fluffy puts up with it is a wonder to me. Anyway, goon two had a weapon. Rusty as all get out, but still, a weapon. I even said out load "Oh! My! God! You have a weapon. Please don't hurt me....I'm so scared." Numbnuts.

    Since they displayed a weapon, I was covered. The Law wasn't all that good, or even real smart. But it was the Law. I could whack these two dumbasses and keep my immunity. Still, I'm something of a philanthropic type. Eat what you kill and all that.

    "Walk away now and you'll get to live. Keep at this and I won't be responsible for what happens to you." A bit more wordy, but still succinct, at least to my mind anyway..

    Tiny laughed. "Or what, old man?"

    The Dilly bar caught him right between the eyes. I was careful to use the flat side, so as to drive home the point that they were messing with the wrong guy. It rang his chimes, no doubt about that. Now, if only he could learn from the lesson...

    I got this Dilly bar honestly, I'm sorry to say. I was walking point in The Gut one afternoon and this Indig popped up out of the ground and tried to slice off my 'nads. Couldn't really blame the guy. We'd just bombed the living shit out of his village, so he was upset. That's natural. I'd have to be completely insensitive not to have seen that.

    When I went to butt stroke him with my Individual Weapon, he surprised me. I figured to knock him in the head and let him cool off a bit. I figured wrong. The little SOB had a Dilly bar and took a good swing at me. Buried the damn thing in my magazine, almost up to the mag well. Split the ammo and everything. When I fell back, Pickle, my number two, laid a good burst into the guy. Fight over.

    Even after I managed to get the Dilly bar out of the magazine, there was another surprise. The damn thing was homemade. I had the Intel pukes look at it. They said the cat had fashioned this Dilly bar from a piece of Pogo landing strut. That made sense. We'd splashed so many in that valley, the Air Commando types started referring to the AO as Pogoville. That's why I stayed a Grunt. Too easy to shoot down a Pogo as it was landing.

    Anyway, you could see where the metal had a factory rounded end, one with a hole for whatever reason. The other end had been broken off. The Indig had worked that to a chisel point. A tool, in fact. A copy of a Dilly bar. The Indig had also worked both edges of the metal to razor sharpness, not at all like a Dilly bar. The sheath was wood inside of metal, the metal covered with friction tape. At first look, it was a bad copy of a Dilly bar, just the thing a Vet might keep to, say, change a flat tire on his scoot.

    Out of the sheath, it was a three pound cut-throat razor. I once took a swing at a guy in a bad street brawl down in Baldwin. Missed the bastard, but damn near cut down the light pole that he was standing next to. Didn't even blunt the edge on my Dilly bar. That gave me some perspective on how tough a Pogo strut was made and the persistence of the Indig - to put that kind of an edge on the metal. None of this made any difference to Tiny when I whacked him with the Dilly bar. He went down in a heap.

    Unfortunately for me, the fat bastard with Tiny had a real honest-to-John piece. Might have been a Smith and Wesson at some point, but it was aimed at me and I could see four rounds still in the cylinder. I'm no fool, I know a loaded Smith and Wesson beats four aces every time. I held up my wallet, before pulling the chain from the wallet and then handing it over.

    I really liked that wallet. It was made from real dead cow, had some very nice hand tooled art and everything. Ugly picked up Tiny and they beat feet. They made it all the way around the corner before the wallet detonated. Six ounces of HiLux military grade plastique explosive splattered the pair of them all across the street.

    I never play by the rules.

    I got more ducats and made it to the bar across the street before the pigs showed up. Wasn't much to see, really. A fire truck came by later to wash the trash down into the gutter. When the oinkers made it to the bar to ask questions, me, Fluffy and a pair of six packs were long gone.

    Bottled beer is the best. Cold or warm. Now all I need to do is to see if I can teach Fluffy how to open his own damn beers....
     
  4. duane

    duane Monkey++

    Good, shades of Hunter Thompson and the irrational rational. Enjoy reading the story and enjoy alternative views of reality.
     
    UncleMorgan likes this.
  5. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I eat vegetables. My friends are not vegetables.

    Good read. Nice buildup on Roscoe. Lot of potential in the NEOdogs. I think this is going to be a really fun story, and I hope it's a long one.
     
  6. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Kinsey Marie
    The ride down to the Republic of Texas wasn't all that bad. The intermittent rain was keeping the heat at bay. Well, at least while we were on the road. By now, Fluffy had taken over the tank bag. On the plus side, he could read the little GPS unit I had on the steering bars and called out turns for me.

    In other words, the little guy earns his beer.

    Otherwise, we go swimming whenever possible. By the time we'd hit the edge of this last river, Fluffy wasn't so fluffy anymore. In fact, the runt looked like a drowned rat. While he went to lie in the sun to dry, I went back to wash the worst of the road crud out of my duds. Riding cross-country on a scoot is a trip. You get hit by bugs, birds and the crap that civs throw out as they pass you by doing the speed of heat. Life on the road, you get to see it all. Doesn't matter whether you want to see it or not.

    I honestly don't get mad or at least, not too mad. I was a civ once myself, back in the day. That was a long time ago. Now, I just try and get by. Have a few beers and not worry where my next meal is coming from. I used to worry about working. Now, I just worry where the food will come from. I don't much like eating at greasy spoons and honest restaurants won't let me in the door. Again, I can't blame them. I got a good look at myself in a mirror the other day in a gas station shitter.

    Scary stared back at me.

    It's not because of any tats. Unlike most Vets from The Gut, I don't have any tats. Besides, you can't really tattoo over scar tissue. Not and have it look worth anything. My face was pretty eff'd up before I went in. The Army, to their credit, didn't give a shit what I looked like. I was a warm body that could hump ruck and shoot. I was pretty good at it, even if I say so myself. That I'm still alive tends to back up that opinion.

    The first time I got hurt bad was in a Pogo. I was riding on the port side. The thing landed hard on the side of a hill causing the landing strut to collapse. Gismos ain't for shit when comes to piloting. The strut failed, and the port nacelle hit first. The airfoils shattered and came through the side of the lifter like it was made of tin foil. Which is was, of course. Made from thin foil. New Pogos get covered with painted canvas. Cheaper that way, I guess.

    Power to the profit. Bandits…MFers, the lot.

    I was in the hospital ward for two weeks before they kicked my ass out. A week later I was back humping ruck again. The other two guys in the Pogo didn't make it. Cutting through their bodies and composite armor first slowed the airfoil shards just enough to only tear me a new one - rather than kill me outright. The squad medic wasn't worth a damn, so all of the cuts scarred badly. Doesn't matter. Every pouge I met in-country either wanted to kill me or hump me so they could steal my wallet. Not much else mattered at that point I guess.

    The Gut was, or still is for that matter, an exercise in stupidity, wrapped in a fraud, blanketed by massive kickbacks and buried in pork. The only winners in all this fighting and dying are the Beltway Bandits. And the dead. They don't have to put up with the misery anymore, so are past hurting. Sometimes, I envy them.

    The second time I got hurt, a green bean was dicking around with a firecracker round. Stoned to the gills, he never felt a thing when it went off. I was lucky enough to dive out of the squad hooch just in time. A firecracker round is a so-called 'improved munition'. 40mm of screaming death. Glass fiber is cast around the warhead, and then scored. If you get hit, no medic can find any of the glass bits. So they eat through you until they hit something vital. Then you get to die a slow, painful death. All this happily provided by the lowest bidder. Technology, it's just marvelous.

    None of this seemed to make much of a difference to the Indigs. They kept trying to kill us every chance they got. Improved munitions or not. Even though I made it out of the hooch, my back got shredded to hamburger from bits of the round, the hooch and the squaddie playing patty cake with live ordinance. This time, our medic was able to keep enough infection away so I didn't get sent to the hospital. Still, or in spite of the care I received, I live with the bonus of a nice mass of scars where my back once was. The scars could be removed, but the Sugar Man won't waste money on recycled human debris, like me. Screw all of 'em. I'm good with it.

    About a year after I got out and returned to the Union, the Army stopped giving discharges or rotating anyone back to the land of the big PX. The fighting had spread to the Canal at one end, and some rotten place deep in the jungle at the other end. Like I've said before, stepping on that mine saved my life. That and winning the super-mega-lottery millions. Now, I don't have to worry about work, I can do or not do whatever I want for the sheer fun of it.

    So, there I was. Standing waist deep in some nasty green water trying to get the worst of the road crud out of my jeans when - I hear a voice.

    "Mister. Is that your doggie?"

    I look up to see a kid standing at the riverbank, pointing to Fluffy. The kid was young, maybe under ten years old. It was a little girl, of course. What else? I'm such a lucky duck. As soon as daddy or someone else came along, I'd be talking with a shotgun or the pigs, or both.

    We'd both been bathing without anything on, so the kiddo had gotten quite the show. More from me than from Fluffy. I mean, if you really think about it, most dogs run around naked all the time. Despite that, nobody ever says anything about it. I'm never that lucky, ever. Being ugly as all Hell doesn't help, I'm sure.

    "Okay, kid. What's the scam?"

    "I'm sorry, Mister. A scam?" She looked confused.

    "Where's your parents? Or caretaker, whatever." I looked around. Now I couldn't get out of the water. If I did, the pigs would really have me red-handed, in a manner of speaking.

    "I don't know where my parents are. Do you?"

    "Do I what?"

    "Know where my parents are?"

    "Kid, I don't even know where my parents are, haven't for years. Why the Hell would I know anything about yours?"

    "You wouldn't, Mister. I sure don't know anything about yours."

    "Screw this; it's starting to sound like a bad stand-up routine. When did you see your higher last?"

    It took her a second to answer. "My mommy, not for a long time. This daddy dropped me off here... I guess, a few weeks ago? He said someone named Jebus would take care of me and left." She sat down, putting her elbows on crossed knees. "Don't worry about not having any clothes. I see people swim here all the time. Swim and do other stuff." She pointed, "They do a lot of the not swimming stuff over there. By the picnic tables."

    "I'm sure they do. Where are you staying? And what did you say your name was?"

    "Across the road. I made a little house for myself. There's a pipe with water in it and I didn't tell you my name." Leaning forward, she stared at me with big blue eyes. "Are you a…troll?"

    I cursed for a minute before shouting, "Fluffy! Get your furry little ass over here!" I looked back at the kiddo. "You can tell me your name or I can make up one for you. What's it going to be? You pick."

    "Kinsey Marie. I'm not sure about the last one. Mommy had one name and all the daddy's I had all had different names. Mommy didn't seem to care. So. Kinsey Marie. Do you have a name?"

    "Ya. And right now it'll be mud if the pigs show up."

    "That won't happen, Mr. Mud." She pointed off in the distance. "The pigs live way over there, behind a fence. Why would they come over here?"

    Fluffy finally wandered up. "About time, you little fuzzbutt." That got me a badly done raspberry. I pointed to the girl, then toward the road. "Take little Dorothy here over to her house. I'll be along later." Turning to the girl, I said "Fluffy here will take you home. I'll be along in a minute."

    * * * * * *
    SmallOther. Is puzzle. Not of myOther clan. I smell no clan. myOther points away, then points to smallOther. Maybe smallOthers are like pups. All US watch for pups. Others do not watch pups. smallOthers all different clan? myOther wants this smallOther away. I move away. This Other is notRoss. Find Ross. Ross knows I'm Good Dog
    * * * * * *
    "What's wrong with his head…?" she asked, while pointing at Fluffy.

    "When he was a puppy, a tractor ran over his head. He didn't heal right." I looked over at the mutt. "You could say he's brain damaged."

    *****
    myOther say take smallOther away. Not hidehidehide. Find smallOther hide. Go. Go now.
    *****
    I know that Fluffy would have given me the finger right about then, but he doesn't have any. Fingers, I mean. I always win on these kind of exchanges. "Now take the squirt and scram before I get pissed." To his credit, Fluffy grabbed the little girl's skirt and started pulling. They were both gone a minute later. My clothes may have been soaking wet, but I had them on quick enough. At least the road crud was gone.

    "Crap. Now what?" I could grab fuzzball and haul ass. Didn't know the kiddo or anything about her. I could bet that her 'mommy' was most likely a drug addled hooker. There were a lot of ruined people running around in the Union these days. None of them was my problem.

    I'd seen kids younger than her hooking on some of the meaner streets on the East Coast. The local pigs would take their cut from the pimp and turn a blind to it and everything else that made them a buck. Times are hard all over, for everyone. The questions was, what to do with this one?

    I rode Rosie over to the pair in silent mode. I had some things to figure out before I did anything really, really stupid. Fluffy and the kid were both sitting on some hay bales. The bales looked the worse for wear, like they'd fallen from a truck.

    "Thanks, Fluffy." I shook my head. "I mean, good dog!" I looked the kid over, this time real close. She had on a dress looking thing over tattered jeans. A sweat shirt with cut off arms was worn over some kind of blouse. So, right now anyway, I was pretty much pig-proof. Pretty much. "Looks like you've been here a while, Dorothy. What have you been eating?"

    "Well, there's some potatoes over in that field," she pointed off to the side. "Carrots are over there. I went over to the pigs once to see if they had anything to eat." She wrinkled her nose. "Nothing good was there, so I never went back." She looked at her feet. "Sometimes, over at the picnic grounds, I find leftovers. When everyone is...sleeping. I go get the food they didn't eat."

    "The farmer is fly with all this?"

    "All I've ever seen is machines. No people, at least, none while I'm awake. Why?"

    "Stealing food from a producer is a crime in most places. You won't like the food in jail. If they even bother to arrest you." Hard times made for hard lessons. Nobody got caught a second time ripping off a Corporate farm. They rarely made it past the first.
    I'd seen that too often in the past as a Labor Enforcer. I never had a thing to do with that part of operations. That's what commercial Bulls are for – beating hungry people. AgCorps are worse than Bandits, if that is even possible. Not my problem right now. Dorothy was.

    I figured that she must be too small to trigger any alarms or maybe, the Bulls were just lazy. That or she never took enough that the commercial Bulls would want to waste the fuel to come out and blow her away.

    "What do you cook in?" I asked. I didn't see a fire pit or sign of a campfire. Impressive for a kid, if what she said was true

    "I don't cook anything." She looked at the ground again. "Mommy never showed me how."

    Eating raw vegetables was supposed to be good for you. Eating stuff raw also saved the hassle of cooking and then having to clean up. "Me neither, kid. Don't sweat it. Where have you been sleeping?" She pointed to one of the hay bales. I've slept the same kind place more than once. Hay is plenty warm in the dead of winter.

    "How much swag do you have?"

    "I'm sorry, Mr. Mud, what's swag?"

    "Luggage, bags, a bindle. Your goods. Toothbrush and all that."

    "I don't have anything. The daddy that left me here said the Lord would provide. I keep waiting for Mr. Lord to stop by and help, but you're the first person that's asked...about me."

    I didn't even bother to curse. I also didn't bother to ask if she had any kin. If she did and they were worth a shit, she wouldn't be sitting out here alongside a road in the middle of nowhere talking with scooter trash and a weird looking dog.

    Looking over at Fluffy, I asked him, "You want to do this? Your call little guy. The most they'll do is put me in the hurtlocker. For you, it's final."

    *****
    SamllOther must be pup. US always PROTECT pups. myOther is strange, I think this Other PROTECT pups. Need to take smallOther away to place with smallOthers. Safeplace. No hidehidehide at Safeplace. myOther take smallOther to Safeplace. Away now.Go Go Go.
    ******

    Fluffy looked the girl over, then grabbed her sleeve with just his front teeth and started dragging her over to Rosie.

    "Okay, Fluffy. I'm in. We're heading back to Wyoming."

    I know a guy with a ranch that takes in strays. Looking over at the kid, I added "This is your lucky day, Kiddo. Someone upstairs took a vote, so I guess it's my turn to do some payback. And by the way, my name isn't Mud anymore. I have two simple rules. You ride on the back, and you keep your mouth shut. We get stopped by the pigs; I'm telling them you're a mute." She was smart enough to just nod.

    We took off that night. I put Rosie in near full combat mode. IR, millimeter wave and passive sensing all live and working but not full up fangs out. If there were any pigs out there, I'd have plenty of warning. I ran the scoot hard and fast. We were out of Texas and at the edge of the hills of Oklahoma by dawn. Once I found an abandoned barn, we crashed.

    Rosie needed a rest to recharge her main battery, and the PEM generator wasn't running at full power out. I needed to crash. Fluffy got enough sleep while we were in movement to pull the day watch. After setting up Rosie, I hit the rack. It took me a while to fall asleep. You get a real buzz going blowing down the road at the speed of heat in the dark, Lights Out and running hot.

    The late afternoon sun coming in through the ruined wall pulled me from a dreamless sleep. Looking around, it took a few minutes before I saw that I was all alone. Shouting would have been stupid. So, I got up and took care of business on the side of the old barn before I started looking around. The place was pretty much in the middle of a junk yard, or looked like it anyway. Smashed trucks, old drilling equipment and mounds of unidentified and rusted metal actually provided some decent cover. I took a fast 360 around the building looking for sign. Sure enough, I found the tracks of my travel mates heading away from the building.

    I found both of them snuggled together on the only patch of deep grass in the area. I'm so used to crashing in odd places that the floor of the barn didn't matter. I guess these two thought differently. Shrugging, I went back to check out Rosie. She was charged full up and ready to roll. All I needed now some kind of fuel and we were set. I still had a good sized wad of ducats for just this situation; all I needed now was to find a fuel outlet that would take cash.

    I stuck my teakettle under Rosie and drained the entire hot water reservoir. This gave me enough for a good cup of Joe and a hot meal of dehydrated veggies. That was the one thing I loved most about fuel cells, pure hot water, damn near on demand. As dinner settled, I looked over the GPS map to sort out the least chancy place to buy some go-juice.

    Hit a big city and like as not, nobody would care about the kid on the back of the scoot. Fluffy would be at real risk though. Pets were a thing of the past for the City. Small towns had proven to me that the mutt was as invisible as a hood ornament. The kid, well, no doubt she would get some serious scrutiny. Especially if she was riding on a strange looking scoot with a big ugly bastard, like me. Nobody gives a shit about a rank biker with scars. I've proven that too many times. Add in a kiddo and things could get crossways in a big hurry.

    I took the third way the first time around. When I spotted a big farm off the road, I drove up and asked if I could buy some fuel. The place must have been Corporate, 'cause the guy gave me the stink eye. I pulled out the wad of ducats and flashed it.

    "Come on, I bet you spill fuel all the time. You log it even. There has to be some slack in all that paperwork somewhere. Use that slack so you can pick up some cash. All off the books, yes?" I could see he was at least thinking about it. "Look, all I need is 20 gallons, a drop in the bucket for one of your big machines..."

    I rode away with empty pockets but a full tank. I can hit an ATM anyplace, right now I wanted to be on the road making miles toward my bud's place.

    We almost got there.

    The blue light special came out of nowhere. One minute we were cruising down an empty road, the next...blinky lights in the back camera. Rosie hadn't peeped. In fact, the only signature the oinker gave off was some heat and the back paint on millimeter wave scanning. WTF? Did the Heat have some new kind of stealth road rocket? Normally an oinker is sitting inside a damn cloud of RF. Two way, vid link, GPS, plate tracker - everything gave off a signature. Everything. This guy was dead quiet. I don't freak easy, but right now, my inner monkey was starting to howl.

    I carefully pulled off to the side of the road, ensuring that I aimed Rosie toward an open spot in the sagebrush. Just in case. As arranged, Fluffy jumped off and headed for the bush, like he was going to do his business. I dropped little blue eyes next to the bike and told her to walk off into the brush and make like she was dropping a duce. Then I stood up to see what the oinker was after.

    ******
    myOther scared. notGood. No hidehidehide now. Must be Condition One. KillKillKill. New Other smells bad, has killthing. notGood notGood. PROTECT pup? PROTECT myOther? Condition One now – full OPS. KillKillKill. Find cover, be ready. KillKillKill. PROTECT pup, PROTECT myOther .
    ******

    Pigs can smell money from a mile away. I've had them shake me down to damn near the last credit on one bogus charge or another. Always willing to collect the fine, but never give a receipt. I've come to accept this as the cost of travel in the Land of the Big PX. Nothing new, it just seemed everybody was into it now. It gets real tiresome after a while.

    When I got a good look at what climbed out of the road rocket, my blood ran cold. An APE. Auxiliary Peace Enforcer. A Rent a Goon, bouncer in a bag. Trouble - every time. Why me? Rosie looked like a refugee from the scrap heap. It wasn't easy to achieve that look. A smelly biker with no ducats? Why? When the APE got closer, if I had any hair on the back of my neck, it would have been at attention.

    The SOB was carrying a sidearm. Big one. APEs get big wood truncheons, baseball bats even, but not weapons. The cops knew better than that. Most APEs I've run across had even been turned down by the Army, and for good reason. Thugs at best, I didn't want to ever consider the other end of that spectrum.

    "What can I do for you today, Officer?" A lame opening gambit, but I had no choice. My gat was under Rosie's seat and not easy to get to, even in the best of times.

    "You know how fast you were going, Citizen?"

    The guy had on some kind of sunglasses, and he wasn't looking at me. He was staring at my passenger. Then my heart rate went into overtime. It had taken me this long to realize the guy's suit was all wrong. This guy wasn't an APE, he was a mother-loving homemade.

    A thing of near rumor amongst the biker subculture, these homemades... That fact was homemades were the thing of nightmares. Dudes, dressed up like the Man. They roamed the open places looking for...victims while dressed as the Heat. And now I was looking at one giving little blue eyes the twice over. Damn, damn and just DAMN! What to do now?

    I made a show of taking off my brainbucket. Real slow, I didn't want Dudley Dowrong there to take me as a threat, at least, not yet. I keyed the transponder and hit record all channels. If this goon killed me, at least the real cops would have a clue. If they even bothered to check out my death.

    "I'm certain I was under the speed limit, Officer. What seems to be the real problem? Just so you know, I'm heading up to a ranch. Got a gig there. I'll have some credits after I work a bit, but right now, I'm flat busted." If the bastard was looking for credits, I'd just warned him off. If he was looking for something else, well, he was in for a surprise.

    "Word is out that a biker kidnapped a little girl." He put his hand on the pistol, "I'm going to have to take," he pointed to Kinsey, "your girl in for an ID check. If it's all good, we'll bring her back out to the ranch. It's for her own safety."

    "Not. Going. To happen. She is going to get on my bike and we are going to head on out. If you're smart, and I really doubt that, you'll get back in your rig and forget you ever saw us." I looked over to check on my paxs. Kinsey was squatting behind a big section of sagebrush. Fluffy was nowhere to be seen. Good. I knew he had my back. I used the pause to shift my feet. If I was fast enough, I could get the Dilly bar out of the sheath at my back and...

    The whine that filled the air grew louder. Both of us looked up in time to see a FlyEye blow past at powerpole height. It pulled a loop and came back, stopping in the air about five meters up. The drone did a slow 360, and then the 'front' of the buzzing aircraft seemed to focus on the faux APE.

    *****
    ROSS!!!! Air support, was Ross? Look, look. Stay Condition One full up OPS ready.....
    ******

    A tannoy on the rig shouted, "Drop the weapon and step back."

    That was a Hell of a shock. This drone couldn't be a FlyEye, they only had vid capability. That meant what was hanging in the air had to be a Mark18 KillerBee. The same factory produced both models, one version was sold to the Sugar Man, the other, unarmed, version went to anyone with the credits and throw weight to run a drone.

    ******
    notRoss. CONDITION ONE OPS NOW.... HOLD. not Machine KILLKILLKILL...
    ******

    The drone bobbed in the air for anther second before a tube extended from the bottom of the craft. The APE made a move for his weapon. The DU pellet from the KillerBee took off his head. I mean, one second the creep was whole, the next, a headless corpse was laying on the ground pumping out blood. Not that I was complaining.

    The KillerBee now turned its attention to me. "My apologies, Citizen. We've been hunting for this criminal for some time. Please take your child and go on your way. There's nothing more to see here now."

    ******
    Stop. NotCondition One. Get pup. RUNRUNRUN.
    ******
    I waved toward the drone and the three of us were flying down the road a moment later. Less than an hour after the whole thing went down, I saw a Pogo heading back toward the deader. The now-dead creep was someone else's mess. They could clean up however they wished. All I wanted was to be gone. To disappear back down into my well-known crevice in the sewer that was the Union.

    When we finally pulled into Sky Ranch, I was met by Tess of all people. I got the standard leap and muckle. After she peeled herself off my mug, I dropped Fluffy to the side. Next, I set Kinsey on the ground and pointed her to the bunkhouse.

    "Okay, Kiddo. In that building is clean water and a hot shower. In the pink boxes you're bound to find something that fits. Dump your old stuff in the waste disposal. Go get cleaned up and then come up to the big house." To her credit, she ran off without a word or a look back. I don't know how the shooting would affect her, but doubtless she'd already seen as much before I'd met her.

    Tess laughed. "Any chance you'll go and take a shower?"

    "I will, if you'll come and scrub my back."

    "Bad news you then, Roscoe. You will die and be buried in the same stink you carry now. No way am I getting anywhere near you, until you've cleaned up."

    "That's why I love you so much, Tess. You like me just the way I am."
    *****
    Teacher say Good Dog. I say enemyOther, had killthing. notMachine kill enemyOther. Kill Kill Kill. EnemyOther? Run away to here. No hide here. Food?
    ******

    Tess laughed. "Ya. Well, bite me." She turned to Fluffy and did that damn dance thing they both do to talk with each other. Then she headed up toward the big house. "Come on, you big lump. Sky told me we could feed you on the veranda and not break any major health laws. How was your trip this time?"

    "Oh. The usual, you know? Pick up an orphan, dodge the heat, get a free air show. Remind me to tell you all about it after the kids are in bed. This time I have vids..."


    END segment.
     
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  7. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I eat vegetables. My friends are not vegetables.

    Fine lines. Great write. I'll be checking this story out EVERY day!
     
  8. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    You write a compelling story. Pulled me right in =)
     
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  9. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Thanks. I'm hoping for some detailed comments. In your case, what exactly did you find that 'pulled you in'?

    I'm going to put this out as a SciFi trilogy if this initial work sells well. To sell well, I need readers. To get readers, I need to understand what people find enjoyable/readable/what brings them back. With that, I can try to work more of "that" into the story.

    Also, the story is not straight-line, it zigzags. I want to make sure that part of the story telling doesn't become disconcerting. My normal copy checker won't touch this as she finds it 'too much' because it isn't 'in order'. I bow to her demands because she checks my work at no cost, just the chance to see the story raw.... Just the same, I'm willing to take the risk.

    So, if you-all have a moment, I would love to hear your feedback.

    I will say now that I have a very thick skin, well buffed by doing tech writing in the military to normally unappreciative audiences..... IOW - let 'er rip, you will not hurt my feelings.

    DKR/dkr
     
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  10. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    that whole 1st paragraph, makes me want to know his story... why has he had his share of bad days.... is a very complelling to a reader. The other thing I liked is you jumped right in with his scars and history. Then you added the talking dog and a little girl who is a survivor.

    I like a good ugly hero too =) just a regular guy who has that protective instinct finely honed but isn't sentimental and even hates that he has that protective instinct. And he makes the dog go protect her so you can pretend it isn't him.... Nice element of surprise with the fake cop and the FlyEye.

    If you could fill in a couple of things about why the dog latched on to him, as part of the dog dialogue and I didn't understand the Dog and Tess dance but just assumed taht will get fleshed out later.

    I personally don't mind disjointed writing. It makes me pay attention and pulls me thru the rest of the story because I have endless questions running in my head about why ??? why does the dog join him, why does he stay, why did the little girl trust this guy but not others.???? etc
     
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  11. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Let me post a few (disjointed) writers notes -

    Ive re-written that opening more than once. Even changed the POV. In the end, a third person Prologue seemed like the best bet...to open with.

    ***********old text -
    I've had bad days in the past. More than a few, in fact, too many. Maybe it's my handle, Roscoe Munroe. I don't think that's it, but you can never tell these days…

    Hell, after pulling two tours in Guatemala humping ruck in the highlands, dodging ambushes from both sides of the conflict, the term 'bad day' has an entirely new meaning. Finally, having to babysit The Trench until my leg was fully healed was enough to drive anyone around the bend. In my case, it was out of the Army and into the rough and tumble...
    **********

    Also, there is this -
    I do need to add more puppy talk, but wanted to see if this format would work for people. Once I can nail that down, there some permutations of the format and 'language' for the Cee Dees - Combat Dogs.

    Here is my hurdle -
    At the root of the problem with any communications I attempt to portray, is that Neodogs are, in every way that matters, Aliens. Regular dogs fall into this meme as well.

    When readers see "Alien" (not withstanding any bug-eyed monsters carrying away scantly-clad maidens) the idea that Alien thought processes can be defined is seen by most in N/A as nearly impossible. That difference is certainly the basis for more than a few books and movies. The most recent is Arrival - which my work pre-dates.

    Fluffy is an Alien. Friendly, to be sure, but just as Alien in his internal thought processes as some being from Beta Reticulai IV.

    Sure, maybe he and the humans he has worked with have developed the equivalent of a Trade Language, but what is going on inside the mutt's noggin? Therein lies the problem with how I can portray Fluffy "Speaking".

    I think if I treat how the NeoDogs and human interact as a kind of trade language - it will work.

    I worked with a partner a couple of years ago to write some satellite ground station maintenance manuals and PM instructions for non-English speaking (and very much non-technical) workers - Natives from the North Slope. . It was an interesting exercise in using a very limited English vocabulary. It forced to look much harder on how to best communicate with someone that didn't have a technical, let alone English-based, language.

    Nouns are no real problem. Even simple phrases and be taught/trained to meet **specific** cases. Who doesn't know Pardon, ¿Dónde está el baño? - eeze peeze. An RPG or tuneel filled with explosives - both are a thing that can be pictured and a 'word' developed that both parties recognize.

    Something more complex - "Travel to this point and look for insurgents"...far more difficult. Since Roscoe has already said that both sides have shot at him, I have to introduce handlers for those finer points in human / Cee Dee communication. (Yeah, new slang - CeeDee = combat dog). It just wouldn't do to have a squad of "friendly" troops get torn to shreds over a simple misunderstanding.... So, the Air Commandos come into the picture. Getting into If/Then loops (see troops in open// call in - airstrike/arty/observation plane - what?) can be almost impossible to define, picture and label - even for humans.

    Where does all of this take place?
    This is all set in a possible future.
    If you aren't a vet, you won't have an idea just how much the Big Army has changed in the last decade. Just as the conflict in Vietnam left a mark, so has the current mess in Southwest Asia. Just as PMC were a major part of deployed forces in SWA, in the future, it may just be the 'point of the spear' that's in 'the Army' with the rest (logistics and support) contracted out. That transition is happening now.

    Imagine a future -
    Multi-National Corporation(s) taking over even more of the economy. Displaced workers either work for what is offered or starve. No safety nets in this future, and nobody could live on Basic Welfare. Not even a dog.

    Politicians and Bureaucrats are even more willing to sell out to these same Corporations (hard to believe, I know, but this is fiction)

    Schools in the future are both too dangerous and expensive, so what little "public" education might be available is on-line. There are a ton of on-line schools today - so this is a simple line extension.

    Now - add in an out of control military - industrial complex feeding off the fears of (something horrible, say, a plague sweeping across Africa) to keep the contracts coming and the credits flowing.

    Not a place I'd want to live, but Roscoe has no choice. So, we see what he can do to survive...and maybe, do a bit more.

    Before you say - this could never happen.... My own father is still alive. He was born in the 20s. He can't believe the world he sees every day..... Remember, the pace of change accelerates with the advent of new technology.

    Scared yet?
     
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  12. mysterymet

    mysterymet Monkey+++

    Maybe some definitions of terms would be good.
     
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  13. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    I like the opening you have now. The original opening isn't as compelling.

    I understand about Fluffy being alien. And I still think revealing something that provides a feeling or idea to the reader for Fluffy's motivation would be awesome.. some suggested ideas.... a look in the eye ... a feeling.... or a knowingness 90% of all communication takes place at the pre and non verbal levels. it could be as simple as Fluffy cockss his head to the right when he approves of something. Or wuffs or grunts. Those are possible physical devices. or Roscommon could be developed further with something he doesn't know he has. As a survivor Roscommon has something that keeps him alive psychic sense he isn't conscious of? It could show up as an itch he can't scratch or a color he sees for one color he sees for good one for bad.

    My take on Sci fyi that sells in today's market is your main character needs a 'unique or special' ability that gets discovered or developed over time. This allows the reader to see themselves as the character. ... to identify with him and suspended disbelief enough to wonder if some odd thing that is happening to them physically could be a development of a special sense or unique ability. That way they wonder about the character long after they are no longer reading.
     
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  14. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    What terms would you point to for additional explanation? I ask because I try like the dickens to avoid words that might leave a reader puzzled - I learned that lesson from my first two books...

    Thank you in advance!
     
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  15. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Thank you - The Proluge posted is like Ver 4.x I finally went with 3rd person - for the opening and will avoid it in the future as much as possible to keep the reader 'hooked'.

    As for Fluffy, all aspects of characters grow as the story unfolds. As far as developing unique abilities, this is something that RAH worked heavily into his early Juvie series (like Red Planet) - and culminated to a peak (IMO) in the book Have Spacesuit - Will Travel (1958) and the last of his Juvie books, notwithstanding Podkayne of Mars. Yes, been a fan of RAH for most of my life.

    Just to make a point -
    Robert Heinlein has "Neodogs" in his 1959 Star Ship Troopers book.

    In the RAH book, the NEOdog is not merely a talking dog; it is not a dog at all, as defined in the book itself - it is an artificially mutated symbiote derived from dog stock and is tied to one handler.
    If the symbiote dies, the handler becomes a basket case; if the handler dies, the animal is killed. Both cases make his view of the animal worthless for combat in too many ways to enumerate. Sorry, Robert.

    Also, the animal is also referred to as a neodog or Neodog. Neo meaning 'new'
    In my story NEO mean Neuron Enhanced combat Operational dog. NEOdogs have the capacity to run limited mission sans handler - "as smart as some of the Grunts" eh? Communication does not depend on a cyber link. and so on.

    Thanks
     
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  16. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Tess


    It was a no name town in the middle of nowhere in particular. Kansas, maybe. If I remember correctly. Anyway, we were running through this burg on the main drag. All the businesses were real old school, big windows up front, dainty awnings. Someplace that had never seen a real welfare riot, ya know?

    We ambled along as slow as Rosie could go while I looked for someplace I could score some eats and not get the stink eye. Ya, I know. I should bath more often, but I consider the stench thing as part of my whole identity. I mean, a filthy biker and scooter trash should smell bad. Yes?

    ******
    Alert! Teacher? Smell Teacher? Smell TEACHER. TURNTURNTURN. Nownownow. Teacher can Speak! Must Speak Teacher.
    *******

    Anyway, we passed this one place and Fluffy went nuts. He spun around on the bag and made the 'turn now' noise several times. "Okay, little guy. I'll go back. Where was it?" The words were barely out of my mouth before the mutt launched himself and was running down the street. I didn't bother to call. The little bum is smart enough to take care of minor issues and I would be along to sort out anything serious. I thought.

    He stood in front the door to a tavern. I could see this massive bar through the window, so at least it offered the chance to get some greasy bar chow. "Come on, you know the drill. If we go inside, I have to carry you. If the owner bitches, we leave. What is it that..." Fluffy was going crazy, so I shut up and opened the door.

    *****
    Other must Open. Openopenopen Help open Nownownow Teacher in Nownownow.

    *****

    The place was clean and damn near empty. Times were hard, even out here in nowhereville. I took a seat and parked fuzzbutt on his own stool. Never on a bar or table. Some things are not tolerated, even out here. I looked up to see if I could order my first beer and was gobsmaked.

    *****
    Teacher! Must be Still Wait to Speak Teacher knows I'm a Good Dog Must be Still. Condition two Still. Wait. Then Speak
    ******

    A woman was walking up the bar. Not next to the bar, on the bar. Damn near naked. Perfectly formed, she couldn't have been taller than, what four foot and some change? But man, what a four feet... Long legs, perfect breasts, obviously not in the need of support. All of this in perfect proportion. A real live, beautiful living doll. And here she was, walking along the top of the bar like an advertisement for a grope factory. I bet she hated this gig.

    When she got to me, I asked for a bottled beer. Cold would be nice. Her answer broke my heart.

    "Is that all?" she said.

    It was obvious to me she was propositioned all the time. Not that she would say yes, mind you. I could sense she had some real pride. "Well," I answered back, "I could use something to eat. Any chance you got some pot roast or meatloaf with gravy around here?" That surprised her. I settled for the best thing on the limited menu - a greaseburger. The usual. I suppose that drinking does kill some folks taste, I've never had that problem.

    She walked away to put up my order and I nearly died. What I would give for a chance just to hold her... I don't normally worry about women. Anything I want, I can buy, but mostly what's for sale is pretty damaged. So, I've become a man of simple tastes. I figured that at some point I would take a chunk of my credits and get some plastic surgery. With the worst of the scars out of the way, well, I suppose anything is possible.

    Right now, for the first time in my life, I hated myself for being ugly. She hadn't reacted to me, not in the least. The cruelest cut of all. I was so ugly as to be ignored.

    *****
    Alert Surprise. Teacher did not Speak. I was Still. Condition two Still. Why No Speak WHY WHYWHY. Alternate contact protocol must be in force EnemyOthers in area? Must be EnemyOthers here. Will use Alternate contact Logo contact Then Speak I'm a Good Dog.

    ******
    While I was working up for my first pity party, Fluffy bit me. I mean, sunk his teeth in my ass, bit me. Not at all playful. He started making noise about his crayons...pencils, really. Some time back, we hit a store and Fluffy managed to get the idea over to me that he wanted something to draw with. It made sense. Any dog that could draw a layout of a tunnel complex would be a real asset to any intel outfit. So, he had pencils and a tablet that I carried around for him. The little guy pulled his weight, why not?

    I sat him on the floor with his toys and went back to wondering what it would be like for this human doll to just notice me. I had it bad, all eat up even. I can't tell you why, she just struck a chord deep inside that I never knew even existed. And now that I knew it existed, I would forever be...lost. Pretty bad, eh? The pity party ended again when the mutt bit my ankle. Now he wanted back up on his stool. I didn't say anything, just lifted him off the floor and plunked him on his seat.

    ******
    Give myOther Logo contact. Then Speak Teacher Too many sleeps no Speak. Must Speak Must
    ******
    He had a piece of paper in his mouth that he dropped on the bar. I idly flipped it over to see what doodle he'd made. I was shocked to see a flaming death's head sketched on the paper. I knew this to be the 9th Special Forces blaze, I'd seen it often enough in The Gut. Why would Fluffy draw this and out in the open? Nothing would expose him faster as a NEOdog than this kind of artwork. I went to stuff it in my pocket and he bared his teeth at me. That was new. He didn't have to growl, I got the message.

    ******
    No hide Logo contact. Give Teacher. Attack level five myOther. Damaged. myOther must be damaged. Logo contact for Teacher. NOWNOWNOW.
    ******
    "Okay, fuzzbutt. It's your ass. Who do you want to see this?" It didn't take much to figure out that he wanted the doll to see his artwork. "I'll try buddy, but to her, I'm nothing but a lump of crap taking up a seat...."

    A few minutes later, she came back down the bar, this time with a tray. I assumed this to be my food and was right. She sat the plate in front of me and started to rise. I managed to get out "Excuse me, Miss? I have something for you..." If looks could kill, I would have been on the floor in a puddle of blood.

    "Everybody has something for me, you piece of..." She stopped talking when I held up the paper. To my surprise, she squatted right in front of me, legs open. I didn't fall for it. I looked into her eyes instead. They were two green pools of softly glowing... She rapped my noggin.

    "Talk fast and it had better be good." This said in a low whisper. "You draw this?"
    ******
    Contact protocol complete! Teacher has Logo. Now Speak. MAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAY need help to Speak myOther. MAYDAY.
    ******
    I sighed. "I wish. My buddy did it." She looked around, confused. I pointed to Fluffy. When she looked at him, for the first time since we walked in, the little guy started dancing. That's the only way I can describe it. Her reaction was even more startling.

    She grabbed my shirt and whispered, "Meet me out back in three hours, no sooner. Got it?"

    I could only nod. Then she slapped me, hard enough I could hear it echo around the bar. Her voice came as a distant thing, "You filthy piece of...scooter trash. Even if you could pay that much I would never... Get out of here. Now!"

    She waved at Fluffy. Damn lucky duck...
    ******
    Teacher give MAYDAY ack!!!! Teacher signal Good Dog! HIDEHIDEHIDE Contact later. MAYDAY ack.
    ******

    We left, my ears still ringing and with an empty gut. I hit up a gas mart on the far side of town for fuel and some nasty eats. Then we split for the boondocks. What the Hell that was all about I couldn't say. I could only hope Fluffy could give me a clue before we went back. She may have been small in stature, but I will have to say she packed quite the wallop.

    Once I found a two-track we could run down for a bit and have some privacy, I dropped the mutt on the ground, climbing off right after. "Damn if I know what you two were on about, but how about a clue? The last thing I want is to get the smile slapped off my face again." I rubbed my jaw some more. At least she had touched me. That was something, even if my teeth were still rattling around in my head.

    ******
    MyOther can't Speak. Must tell of Teacher. Teacher can Speak. MAYDAY ack! Too bad myOther is damaged....
    ******

    Fluffy scratched something in the dirt. It took a minute for me to sort it out. THX.

    "No problemo mi amigo. You've saved my bacon a couple of times, least I can do is take a hit in the face for my buddy. I'll have to admit she is hot..."

    ******
    myOther mate with Teacher? Smell mating. NONONO. Must Speak with Teacher. No mate, Speak
    *****

    That got a real live growl from the little guy. For the first time ever. Lots of firsts today. I could only hope to survive the ones that had to be coming. "Okay. I get it. You saw her first. You do know that any children will be really ugly, right?" That set him to bouncing around in a circle, something I'd taken in the past to be some sort of laughing. At least he wasn't chewing on my ass any more.

    ******
    MyOther no mate. Laugh Happy Teacher can Speak. Speak to myOther. See if damaged.
    *****

    "Okay. You're interested in the woman. Damn if I know why, but I can start from there. She's interested back at you because of the artwork. I got that much. Why?"

    ******
    Hard to understand myOther. Why Logo contact? myOther smelled of Missionplace, must know Logo contact. myOther not one of US, myOther not of Other clan?
    ******

    Fluffy started making marks in the dirt again. This one took a lot longer. No matter I looked at the scratches, they looked like...scratches in the dirt. I was missing something, no doubt about it. The mutt just looked at me with, dare I say pity? Like a pet dog too stupid to understand even a simple trick. Can't say as I blame him. Sometimes I disgust even me. Ugly is bad enough. But ugly and stupid...that is not a winning combination.

    I got down on my hands and knees and tried to see the scratches from Fluffy's point of view. That changed things considerably. Perspective and all that. Now the scratches looked sorta like a rank tab. A field Sergeant was my best guess. "Okay, little guy. A field Sergeant. Yes?" He nodded. We had the whole yes/no thing sorted out a long time ago. The rest was still a work in progress.

    "So. Field Sergeant. Not me, I made sure I never made it past E-four. My momma didn't raise no fool. Dogs don't get rank in the Special Forces, do they?" The look I got said volumes. I was back to bad, dumb dog.

    ******
    US rank? myOther is damaged. Bad damaged. US need no rank, we Know. Too hard to explain to myOther, myOther doesn't Speak. Must be Good Dog. myOther damaged...
    ******
    "That leaves the bar doll. Is she the..." I didn't finish the sentence because Fluffy did a back flip. That was new. "I take it that means I'm back up to simple moron. So, if the bar doll is a field Sergeant...and you two can talk... Holy shit! You know her?" That netted another back flip. "You two worked together?" That, unfortunately, got a No head shake. "You know about her?"

    No

    "Someone told you about her?"

    Yes.


    I play 20 questions with Fluffy all the time. He doesn't seem to mind and I have all the time in the world as we cruise from place to place. On Rosie, we're in our own little world. And that little world was getting ready to grow by at least one.

    "Human or NEodog? Human?"

    No.

    "NEOdogs talk to each other?" That got me demoted to dumbass, 4th class. "Okay. How about...Wow! I had no idea that NEOdogs talked with each other. Since you were in the Army, I take it most of the chatter was all gossip and crap like the Grunts?"

    Yes.

    "If you don't know her and she doesn't know you, why bother?" That's when Fluffy started dancing again. Now I did feel like an idiot. "Okay buddy. I got it. She can really talk with you. You're lonely?" That got a back flip. Now I was promoted back to being someone barely smart enough to chauffeur around a NEOdog. I can live with that.

    Since nobody in the Cites could afford to feed a pet and the country folks mostly fed their animals from the table, the pet food industry had collapsed a long time ago. That meant trying to feed Fluffy without killing him with additives or even the so called food itself.

    Rosie was smart enough to look for open air links to the 'Net. There was still some around, though fewer every day. I left an open list of subjects queued up for when she found an open port. She would rip off as much as she could as we drove by. No way to back trace to me and we got enough in fits and spurts to make the effort worthwhile.

    NEOdogs had been built with a deficiency which was supposed to require special food. This was meant to provide some means of control for the military. The Beltway Bandits kind of neglected to mention to the Sugar Man that ordinary vitamin supplements would work just as well. They just lacked the fancy names. I keep a 30 day supply on hand at all times. I was good to go, these were for Fluffy.

    After dinner, a vitamin pill and some water, we were set to head back into town. I did ask if Fluffy wanted to stay out in the boonies until the doll and I sorted things out. For his own safety and all that. He nearly took a piece of my hide off. So off we went trying to figure out how to best pull in behind a bar in a strange town and not be seen.

    Turns out in this burg everyone rolls up the sidewalk and goes home at dark. The main drag was deserted. It was nothing to turn into the ally and kill the headlight. Rosie fed the IR to my brain bucket and next you know we were behind the bar. A shadow detached itself from the wall and slid onto the seat behind me. She muckled on so tight, I doubt anyone would even notice that I had a passenger.

    She didn't say anything, so I aimed for the same two track we took earlier, this time I followed it all the way to clump of trees. With that bit of cover, I shut down Rosie and said "My name is Roscoe. May I know yours?"

    "It's Tess and you really need a bath, big boy."

    "Yeah. I get that a lot. It looks like you and Fluffy have some things to talk about. How about I leave you two alone and that way you can have some privacy?"

    "Why? Do you understand Positional Talk? Your buddy says no."

    "My buddy thinks I'm brain damaged. At least I'm good for some chow and the occasional beer."

    She looked back at Fluffy before she replied. Fluffy did his dance thing. "A dumbass, yes. Brain damaged, no. And your little buddy here would give up his life to protect you. He knows you've hung your ass out there more than once for his sake. He may not be able to fully communicate with you, but he's not blind either. You're a very lucky man. How did you two meet? I've never heard of a solo NEOdog."

    "By sheer chance. He seemed nice enough for... I thought I would enjoy his company, I get so little otherwise."

    ******
    myOther is myOther. Good Good myOther. Keep.
    *****

    "It seems the feeling is mutual. As a side note, how is it you are still alive?"

    "I'm sorry. Say again?"

    "You are the lump that scored on the mega-ultra lottery. Hundreds of millions. Yes?"

    "Why do you think so?"

    "I can read tats like people read a book. Your facial scars are at least as distinctive as a tat, maybe more so. Think about it, Roscoe, I talk with NEOdogs, how hard would tats be?"

    That hit like a punch to the gut. I figured that there would be folks looking to rob me, but kill me? "AAAhhh. How do you know that someone is trying to light me up?"

    She shook her head. "I may live in the middle of nowhere, that doesn't mean I can't get connected. There's a half dozen sites offering top dollar for your head, more if it looks even vaguely like an accident."

    "Who would want me dead? I mean, why?"

    "Damn, Roscoe, your buddy is right. You are a dumbass. The bank wants you dead, stupid. As long as you're alive, they have to be able to account for where the winnings go. If you're dead, they can loot the account and gin up a ton of bogus withdraws to cover their tracks. Didn't you ever wonder why the Lottery is run so often? And why the winners had such extravagant lifestyles. Extravagant and short lives as well."

    When I shook my head, she went on, "It's like the bank having their very own credit printing press. So long as they have some kind of paper trail to show the auditors, the Government could care less. With computers, the effort is trivial. You keep roaming around and making random withdrawals, they can't start to cover their tracks. That has to be driving 'em nuts." She laughed. It wasn't intentionally cruel, just the same...

    "What in the Hell am I going to do?"

    "Besides dying horribly?"

    "I was hoping to get past that. You know. Keep on living. Maybe meet a nice woman. Settle down. Have some kids. That kind of stuff."

    "What's in it for me?" It didn't sound rude, not the way she said it.

    "What do you want?"

    She handed me a bar of soap. "There's a steam down there somewhere. Find it. Use the soap, a lot of it. Leave your duds there if you want. I understand the funk, camo is camo after all. I just can't talk with you at length if you smell like a dead billygoat. I just can't. Now go." As I walked away looking for the stream, Tess and Fluffy started dancing in a big way....

    *******

    I'd left my clothing carefully piled on my boots. No way was I going to wash them with any kind of soap. Buy new, yes. I'd invested too much time into getting that funk. I walked back naked. Being naked didn't bother me. I'd run outside to take a shower in the rain back in The Gut too many times that by now, it was nothing.

    I was little surprised to see Tess sitting on Rosie with nothing on. On the other hand, I wasn't going to suggest she cover up, there was just too much real estate I wanted to look over. I was surprised to see some scaring on her back and left breast. Then again, since I'm a roadmap of scars, it doesn't matter. She had the prettiest face...

    She patted the seat and slid back to sit on the pillion. I sat down and took a good look at her face. The moonlight washed across it, making delicate shadows. If anything she was even more beautiful now than when he first saw her. I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

    "So. You think you can keep these guys from killing me?"

    She put a hand up to my face. "Yes, but it's going to take some help. That means you're going to have to trust at least me."

    "Okay. I don't see that I have a lot of choice because I have no idea of the real threat. By the way, your eyes are the prettiest green. Was your hair red before you dyed it?"

    That caused her to pause. "Ahh. Yes, it was red before... Now. You're going to need to decide what you want to do with this wad of credits you're sitting on. All you've pulled out to date is chump change, I'm sure. You have hundreds of millions to think about." She paused again. "How do you know I have naturally red hair?"

    "I could lie and say I guessed. I'll tell you how I know later. I take it you have some idea of where this much loot could do some good?"

    Now she smiled. "I do. Before I had to take this gig as a bar server..."

    I touched her lips. "Let me know who forced you to this. I'll kill him myself." I doubt she could tell, but that statement was as serious as a heart attack – I would kill whoever did this to her.

    She shook her head. "I did it to myself by trusting the wrong people. Don't sweat it. I've had to do worse in my time. Anyway, I was working for a vet's outreach program trying to find someplace that they could feel safe. It was a complete bust; most of the guys I tried to help had gone completely off the rails. The one's that hadn't, guys like you, didn't need my help."

    "So?" It was all I could do to keep my hands to myself. All I wanted to do was run my fingers through her hair. Still, I had to focus; this would be the most important mission brief ever.

    "So, I ran across this guy that works with orphans. Sky Taylor. He wants to set up a ranch to house orphans and get them some kind of an education."

    "He's going to need a hell of a ranch." The number of orphaned and abandoned children was...overwhelming. What could this one guy do?

    "No, he's not. He just needs some help is all. He's not trying to save the world. Just a few. He won't take the kids that are out hooking or those using or selling drugs. They're gone and he knows it. He's just trying to save the few he can."

    "Would 60 million be enough help?"

    "Damn it, Roscoe. Would you focus on what I'm saying and not my..."

    That hit a nerve, one that I didn't know even existed. "Stop right there, Tess. When I walked in that bar, I asked for a beer. Nothing else. When you squatted in front of me, and opened your knees, I looked at your face. Don't put me in the same class as the assholes that come in the bar and want to grope you, or make snide comments about you being too small to fit them in. You're not a hooker. I know a hooker when I see one. You're a vet and someone that deserves some respect. I may be ugly and may even be stupid, but I'm not..."

    I couldn't say anymore because she had latched onto my lips and wrapped herself around me so tightly I could barely breathe. When she came up for air, I could only say..."Thank you." It was while longer before either of could speak. I was lying back on Rosie, with my legs draped over the bars. Tess sat on my chest. We were both comfortable. Fluffy had decided to go chase squirrels or something. I couldn't blame him. Some things are of absolutely no interest to another species.

    "Why would 60 million be too much?"

    "It's the same reason 600 hundred million plus is too much. Too tempting. We need to set up a series of foundations and then package the donations to go out over time. In a way even the bankers can't get their claws into it. I know just the guy to help. Retired lawyer and he hates the entire monetary-industrial complex as much as I do. Let me talk with this guy, it will take some time. Setting up the foundations won't take much. Once we get everything in place, you can hit a connected ATM and drop the credits and haul ass before a hit team can get to you. Shouldn't take more than a few minutes."

    "Okay, Tess. Let me ask. What do you get out of this."

    She leaned over and kissed my nose. "You. While you were removing that funk, I had a chance to really talk with Fluffy. When a NEOdog is ready and willing to give up their life for a human, that's damn strong endorsement. He told me all about your travels. I have to agree with him. Where do we go from here?"

    "We can't get married, not right now. Maybe after I've managed to give away enough of this cursed credit..."

    "Roscoe, I can't wait that long. I suffer from an odd genetic condition, that's why I'm so...small. I could live to be a hundred, or... Or not. Are you really ready to marry me, to foresake all others?"

    "Tess, there are no others. Never have been. Hell, people have called me a troll...to my face."

    She put her finger on his lips. "Yet, you let them live. Not because you have no pride. But because you knew you could have destroyed them place yet, still you made the choice not to." She laughed. "It took Fluffy a while to figure that part out. That's also why you're such a Big Dog in his eyes." She smiled again. "Now then. Are you willing to marry me and foresake all others. Even unto death?"

    "I say without any reservation, yes. Yes, I am. What do you want to do?"

    "Nothing. We're married. Nobody else matters. I don't need a piece of paper. I sure as Hell don't need the permission of the Government. And now that we're married..." She slid back and started to wiggle, "you can show your new wife a good time."

    The sun woke us. I was lying on Rosie and Tess was lying on me. I was a new man in so many ways. I had finally found love in the arms of a beautiful woman. Now all that remained was the rest of our lives. I couldn't help myself. I grabbed her lovely buns and...

    She moved her head and opened one eye to look at me. "Good Lord, Roscoe. Not again?"

    I smiled back at her. "No, I'm good. Just saying good morning. What do you want to do now?"

    "I want to find that bar of soap and clean up. After that, we need to talk and do some basic planning. Then you need to disappear until everything is set up. Once we've reduced the threat to you, we can...consider living together." She leaned over to kiss his nose again. "And push a serious effort to make some babies. Now, where's that soap?"

    It took a while to get cleaned up, but eventually, she was happy with her condition. I carried my duds back, but left them off to the side of the cycle. Tess sat on Rosie like a lithe Buddha. I decided to stand. She gave out a short, two tone whistle. Fluffy popped out of the brush.

    "Hey, Fluffy. It all good now. We've finished," she waved a hand, "mating." She patted the pillion. Once the mutt was seated, she began. She did some kind of abbreviated dance thing while watching Fluffy. She finally nodded her head. Looking up at me she said, "He's willing to continue to work with you, but you really have to stop trying to get him to open his own beer bottles. You have no idea how damned annoying that is for him."

    I nodded. "Got it. What else?"

    She tapped her fingers for a minute. "Once I get the foundations and the framework all set up for your credit drop, I'll need to contact you with the specifics. This is going to be shells within shells with drops and all kinds of other crap to keep the bankers at arm's length. And worse, to make this work, you're still going to have to continue make random withdrawals to keep the looters at bay."

    She sighed, "I'm going to have to do something about your face, change the scars or do something to break up the pattern. There are, no doubt, scanners looking for you at more and more ATMs. And once they get a pattern match, all Hell will break loose." She went back to tapping her fingers. I went back to watching how that tapping made her breasts move ever so slightly.

    "Roscoe, you're not helping. Keep it up and I'll put my cloak back on."

    "What?"

    She rubbed her face. "Look. You think you're sitting still. You aren't. Your body is sending messages you're not even aware of. I spent years learning, then teaching Positional language working with NEOdogs. This was when they first started the...larger breeding program. I helped to develop the language, and train the humans that would use the language. Trouble was, once the NEOdogs got into combat, the language changed. Grew richer. I got fired when I tried to show the military how much more the NEOs could do. I got back here only to find the SOBs had blacklisted me at every institute and university where I might have found work.

    She wrapped her arms around her thin frame and shuddered. "I went underground, trained whoever wanted to learn. Vets mostly. Even that got shut down. I had to go even deeper. I had help, but to everyone I once knew it looked like I had turned to prostitution. I was completely destroyed as an academic. Only then did the active harassment stop. I've no doubt that the bastards check up on me to ensure I'm still safely under their thumb." She smiled again. "Doesn't matter. The NEOs know better."

    "So. What do you want me to do?"

    "Stay alive. Fluffy knows where the few other NEOs are living, more or less. If you need help, they will help you." Her face fell, "For you to stay...alive I'm going to have to hurt you because we don't have access to good surgeons. So I'm... I'm going to have to add some new scars to your face." She started crying. "I don't know any other way..."

    End segment TESS
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2016
  17. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    Love how the story is filling out.
     
    UncleMorgan likes this.
  18. mysterymet

    mysterymet Monkey+++

    The Gut... I am assuming it is some war zone.
    I am not sure about the scooter. I am picturing an actual scooter line a honda helix or something like that.
    Dilly bar... Something like a batton with a cutting edge on one side?
     
    UncleMorgan likes this.
  19. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Hell, in pulling two tours in Guatemala, humping ruck in the highlands = The Gut. Just like The Nam (tho I've yet to hear a real vet call it anything other than "In country" or SEA) Afghanistan = Trashcan Iraq = the sandbox. Everyplace has a nickname - the nastier, the shorter the nickname.

    Rosie - will be explained in detail later in the story - but made from parts from several Motorcycle, Recon & Observation, Self-powered, Electric Integrated Engine. Hence the reference to a PEM fuel cell.
    [​IMG]
    More like this than a Honda.... very tech/military looking without trying....

    Dilly bar (a play on an old DQ treat BTW) a flat bar with a chisel at one end and rounded on the other - like a tire tool. Roscoe's just happens to be a bit heavier and part of both sides of the flat are sharpened to a razor's edge. Hence, a "Three pound cut-throat razor" Never jams, never runs out of ammo, has no flash signature....and quiet.

    ETA - many Harley owners I know refer to their bikes as 'scooters' and many refer to bikers as "Scooter trash" - English, so easy to learn....

    All good?

    Thanks for asking!
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2016
    UncleMorgan likes this.
  20. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    Start with an Etch-a-Sketch, leave with an oil printing... All I need to do is fill in the lines.

    Thanks for the kind words.
     
    techsar, UncleMorgan and Ganado like this.
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